“Each individual should work for himself. People will not sacrifice themselves for the company.” Soichiro Honda; founder of Honda
What a truly humanitarian statement, and from what one would consider to be a very unlikely source! The fact is that we all do ultimately work for ourselves, despite what it says our business cards.
Yet this is something that employer and worker both tend to forget. We spend nearly 25% of a full week, or over 35% of our waking lives, at work - assuming a 40 hour week and completely ignoring commuting time. It is therefore inevitable that it tends to dominate our lives and we come to identify ourselves by the organisation we work for; especially if we have heavy financial commitments and depend on our work completely just to make ends meet.
On the other hand, employer organisations also seem to think that an employee is someone over whom they can make almost any demands. This is epitomised by a shocking anecdote in Alex Kjerulf’s book “Happy Hour is 9 to 5” where an employee (ironically working for a non-profit organisation) was refused a request to leave work to go to their beloved grandmother’s deathbed. I am sure most readers find this shocking, but is it actually any more shocking than employers’ thinking that it is their role to motivate employees? Both situations illustrate the extent to which both sides have blurred the lines of the relationship.
That is what make Honda’s words such a breath of fresh air. Organisations and individuals alike would be better off if they recognised and accepted the principle and then put it into practice. This would mean:
• Individuals would be responsible for their own engagement and motivation.
• Organisations would be responsible only for creating an environment in which individuals can do their work effectively, and spend less time trying to offer all things to all people.
While the benefits would be many, one of the biggest might be the improved productivity of manager’s who no longer have to spend so much of their time on these no-win issues.